Choosing an electric skillet

Cooks who own an electric frying pan favor its convenience and versatility. Foods like fajitas, hamburgers, eggs or pancakes can be cooked at a set temperature from anywhere in the kitchen, freeing up the stovetop for other tasks. Additionally, the food can be left on the keep-warm setting in the electric skillet for buffet-style serving. These handy appliances may be square, rectangular or circular and typically vary in size from 11 inches to 16 inches in diameter. Oblong skillets closely resemble electric griddles, which are covered in our separate report on electric grills, and are capable of cooking larger batches of food than a round stovetop skillet. The depth of the electric frying pan also affects the overall capacity and ability to deep fry.

Most electric skillets have a nonstick coating on the interior and come with a glass lid. After reading owner reviews, it's clear that some models have durability issues with the nonstick coating, particularly over the heating element. Owners say this is where the coating tends to begin bubbling and peeling off, sometimes after just one or two uses. Another issue is hot spots developing over the heating element.

In addition to size, shape, durability and even heat distribution, reviewers say to consider the following when shopping for an electric frying pan:

  • A max temperature of at least 400 degrees Fahrenheit: If you want to use your electric frying pan for deep frying, you will have better results with a maximum temperature of at least 450 degrees Fahrenheit, the optimal temperature for making french fries and onion rings. A high-temp setting of 400 degrees is fine for pan frying and stir-fries.
  • A smooth bottom: Look closely at the bottom of the electric skillet to see if it is flat or curved. A flat bottom makes it easier to cook certain foods, such as pancake batter or eggs. A bottom that has a bulge over the heating element is liable to end up with hot spots.
  • A vented lid: If the steam isn't allowed to safely release through a vent in the lid, it can cause a burn when the lid is lifted. A vent in the lid also keeps liquid contents from reaching too a high a pressure and overflowing.
  • A removable heating element: Most electric skillets are two-piece appliances: a pan and a plug-in heating element. That makes the pan easier to clean, and it often is dishwasher safe. You'll still see some models that are all one piece. These are harder to clean because they can't be dunked in water.

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